Effective altruism is built on the simple but unsettling idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good one can. In this course you will examine this idea's philosophical underpinnings; meet remarkable people who have restructured their lives in accordance with it; and think about how effective altruism can be put into practice in your own life.
All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion.
Getting Started with the Course
This week we share what this course is about. We will give those of you who do not have a background in philosophy, or who need a refresher, an opportunity to study two areas of ethics: meta-ethics and normative ethical theories.
Poverty and Affluence
What obligations do the affluent have towards those who live in extreme poverty? This week we look at one distinct argument based on consequentialist ethics and also begin the discussion of the effectiveness of aid programs. This week also includes a conversation with Raymond Offenheiser. Furthermore, we discuss poverty as human rights violations. You will also find a conversation with Dean Karlan about effective solutions to poverty problems in this week.
What is the Best Cause? How Much Ought We Do to Help Others?
How do you get the most value for your charitable dollars? How can you compare different causes to each other, and how do you compare different charities to each other? One of the guests this week is Elie Hassenfeld from GiveWell, an organization that tries to find the answers to these questions. This week you will also meet three individuals who in different ways embody the ideal of effective altruism: Zell Kravinsky, Julia Wise and Alexander Berger.
Effective Altruism and Career Choice
This week Will MacAskill and Matt Wage discuss effective altruism and career choice.
The Giving Game
In this week you will have the opportunity to play the Giving Game.
Why Act Ethically?
In this last week, we circle back to some foundational questions in ethics. What is the relationship between rationality, self-interest, and ethics? How demanding is morality, and why exactly should be trying to live an ethical life? In this week you will also find the final essay assignment.
Now that you have reached the end of the course, we would also very much appreciate your feedback. You may either submit a review on Class Central by going to https://www.classcentral.com/course/effectivealtruism-3446 — which will also help other learners discover the course — or send us an email to [email protected] Thank you!
I took this course to suppliment Professor Paul Bloom's course "Moralities of Everyday Life." That was an entertaining course, and Professor Bloom spoke of Peter Singer as having a massive influence on his ideas, so I chose to check this one out to see...
I took this course to suppliment Professor Paul Bloom's course "Moralities of Everyday Life." That was an entertaining course, and Professor Bloom spoke of Peter Singer as having a massive influence on his ideas, so I chose to check this one out to see what it's about.
I'm grateful for "Effective Altruism" course because it shined light on some important considerations that are often overlooked when deciding how to give charity. It was eye-opening and counter-cultural. He does not tell us "follow your heart to do the most good." Proffesor Singer also does not believe that empathy and seeing the people you help as individuals is necessary to do good. Instead, he believes that it is our duty to try to do what will bring the most benefit to the most people.
I can see how some people might be put off by the dispassionate nature of this course's content. The "effective" in "effective altruism" is key here. If you want guidance into what charities will produce the best results, this is for you; if you are looking for guidance into how to love others indiscriminately and find the drive to work towards it in your life, I would instead recommend the course "Love as a Force for Social Justice" from Stanford.
There was some discussion of the philosophy behind altrusim and morality, but this was an overall practical class. Professor Singer's brought in real life examples of people who engage in effective altrusim, and he introduced certain charities and organizations to us to learn how they operate behind the scenes. In the former cases, the lectures appeared to be recorded in his actual classes he taught, so a "live" Q&A was possible between the students and the guests.
There are many information-packed reading suggestions, although reading is not required to get the course certificate. Some of the articles were easy to access online. Others, it appeared the only way to get them was in print. They were packed with facts and opinions. Although I finished the course, I'm still trying to read through all these interesting and pertinent articles.
Taken as a whole, it was thought-provoking and undeniably vital in developing my strategy for how I donate to charities. However, are certain cardinal assumptions that I felt may have been overstated and simplistically presented. For example, overwhelming, the focus was on developing countries' plights (e.g. malaria, HIV/Aids, undernourishment), "effective" often seemed implicitly defined by "the number of lives saved" not improved, and the gain versus cost monetary-wise was the way that it was measured. This rubbed me the wrong way as a sustainability major; when the focus was on saving the most lives possible immediately and solely through how money is spent, it seemed to make sacrifices in other important areas- resource allocation, nested power struggles, and soil health to name a few- for fighting poverty.
This is certainly a great course to begin learning about the steps you can take towards effective altruism, but it is also not an end point. The ideas presented here for making the greatest impact are just that- opinions and ideas. Use the tools and knowledge and experience and skills you have in addition to the suggestions and resources in this course to decide how you will engage in "effective altruism."
Thank you for taking the time to create this, Professor Singer and all that took part.
Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.
I tend to like courses that do the recordings for the course anew more, since recording existing lectures seems a bit lazy. However, these lectures were interesting, but sometimes it was difficult to hear audience questions. There are no assignments except...
I tend to like courses that do the recordings for the course anew more, since recording existing lectures seems a bit lazy. However, these lectures were interesting, but sometimes it was difficult to hear audience questions. There are no assignments except for one essay, and the course does not offer certificates. The issues learned are important, but I was expecting more ethics and philosophical issues, rather than presenting people and charities, it seemed more like advertising certain charities. However, there is a nice exercise in which you have to pick a charity, but the discussion forums were empty, there were no mentors, and there was no one to discuss the choice with. This course would be better in a session-based system, and with more theoretical issues rather than just talks.
Helena Mcmullin completed this course.
This course is a wonderfully concise exploration of key considerations in ethics, and how taking an ethical approach to life may or may not serve you, depending on your personal point of view. In a time of individuality and self-interest, this is a refreshing...
This course is a wonderfully concise exploration of key considerations in ethics, and how taking an ethical approach to life may or may not serve you, depending on your personal point of view. In a time of individuality and self-interest, this is a refreshing way to consider how everyone, large and small, rich and poor, can and does impact the world. How aware are you of the impact you already have and deliberately can have? Can you be successful AND an effective altruist? Laden with fascinating old school philosophy and modern day approaches to charity economics, this course is both reflective and practical, including how to find and use tools to help prioritise where to invest charity money to make sure each dollar goes as fas as it can to improve and save lives. Thank you.
I was highly impressed by Professor Singer's way of treating the complex subject. His course is very informative and due to the practical exemples he uses, it's easier to understand theories. It was a real pleasure listening to him.
Also great: the guests he invited to the classes and who showed various possibilities of how to live effective altruism.
The class also initiates me to re-think about my own attitude when I donate. And also to get more information about the way organizations work and what's their aim.
I highly recommend the course!
Elizabeth Simmons completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
This course is essential for personal development and for anyone wanting a practical understanding of ethical philosophy. I took this course initially for academic reasons. However, the thought-provoking material of this course cannot help but move you personally. It is a course I will be contemplating for a lifetime to come.
I loved this course. I felt so helpless and insignificant in the face of the problems facing humanity. As a result of doing this course, I feel that I have received the advice and gained the knowledge that will enable me to take the right decisions and make a difference.
Anonymous is taking this course right now.
nice a very nice course it tells you that altruism can help you live a happy life and help others
I really enjoyed in this course. These all theories and ideas are extremely informing and enlightening about the ethical rules and life itself.
Cuneyt Anadolu completed this course.
Peter Hartree completed this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.